As a church we have many past blessings for which to thank God. In recent months people have told us of their turning to faith in Christ for salvation, and we’ve also enjoyed encouraging times such as last weekend’s emphasis on the Bible and the work of the Gideons. However, we must not stand still and at a recent meeting of the church oversight team a variety of plans for the future were discussed.
Please do note the following.
Sunday Evening Bible Teaching
The programme for the remainder of 2012 (God willing) is almost complete. There are some changes from the previous list. See the updated list here.
Thursday Evening Meetings
There are several points to mention here:
- We are continuing with our studies in Luke’s Gospel. The passages and the people responsible for introducing the studies are listed for most weeks to the year end.
- We are concerned at the relative lack of attention that we as a church have recently been giving to collective prayer. If it is to thrive a church must be characterised by prayerfulness. To commence addressing this we have decided to change the emphasis of the meeting on the first Thursday evening of each month.
- Some time ago we said that we would periodically have communion (Breaking of Bread) on Thursday evenings in addition to Sunday mornings, especially to help those who find it difficult to be with us at 10:15 am on Sunday.
- Combining these two points we now plan for the first Thursday evening of each month to be given over to prayer, followed by Communion.
Following on several supper evenings earlier in the year we hope to pick up the programme as the days shorten and the nights draw in. Tentatively we are looking at three Fridays: September 28th, October 26th and November 23rd. Watch out for confirmation (or changes) and details.
In closing, it just occurred to me that much of the above fits with verses we were considering this past Sunday morning in looking at the example given us by the very first Christians following Peter’s preaching as recorded in Acts 2:
“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Acts 2:41-42 (NIV)
In recent weeks some of our members have been working hard on a project of transformation. Many thanks to everyone involved.
The first photo shows what we used to see when we came to services, or were simply walking past on the way to Frank’s Bridge over the River Eden for an afternoon walk.
The second photo was taken yesterday. I’m sure you’ll think it quite an improvement … and the work continues on other parts of the building.
Of course a church’s building, although it is important to keep it in good order insofar as we are able, is not the principal thing.
The Bible says that God “does not live in temples made with hands.” As Christians we should remember that collectively we are the “living stones” of God’s spiritual building. Also, the apostle Paul reminds Christians individually: “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. … You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” [1 Corinthians 6:19,20; NIV] That is a big challenge in our contemporary world.
In verse 7 of Psalm 139 the psalmist asks God, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”
It is, of course. a rhetorical question. He knows there is no answer apart from, “Nowhere”. We simply cannot get away from God however hard we may try. We cannot hide from him. He sees everything and knows everything about us, and I suspect that is one reason why some people like to deny his existence. It can be quite unnerving to think of an all-powerful being who knows everything we do, say or even think.
A couple of weekends ago I was in the Sunday morning service at a village parish church in Leicestershire. The vicar told the story of the Old Testament prophet Samuel when he was commanded by God to anoint a new king. He was told the family that he should go to, and assumed that the very impressive eldest son would be the chosen one. But no! He worked his way down the family from eldest to youngest and still God said to him quietly, “This is not the one”.
Eventually in desperation he called to Jesse, the father, “Are you sure you’ve shown me all your sons?” “Well, there is another one,” says Jesse, but he’s little more than a child. He’s out watching the sheep.” “Bring him,” ordered the prophet, and as you’ve guessed he was the chosen one.
The moral of the story is given to us in the text (1 Samuel 16:7) and we can think of it alongside our verse from Psalm 139: “Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”
We’re very pleased that the Sportsreach team have agreed to visit us in Kirkby Stephen for a third year on the weekend of 19th/20th May.
Details will be announced later, but before then we have the opportunity to hear a talk on the work of Sportsreach in this country, continental Europe and Africa when Will Marsden visits us for our March 9th Supper Evening.
Twice in recent years we have had sports weekends for young people run by SportsReach of Carnforth, Lancashire. Currently we are exploring the possibility of another in 2012 and will announce details as soon as we are able.
On Sunday, December 4th, we had a visit from Will and Sue Marsden (directors of SportsReach) along with their family. They led both the morning and afternoon services, and the photograph here shows the girls singing Christian songs, with mother on the keyboard. It was not simply entertainment, though. The words of the songs themselves were challenging and the whole family was involved in telling us of their activities over the past year, one highlight being a Christian sports mission in Kenya.
Will, on the Sunday evening, preached from Acts 8. He pointed out that whether Philip was among the city crowds of Samaria or on a desert road with a single individual his message was the same: “He told him the good news about Jesus”. He rightly challenged us always to keep Jesus himself at the forefront of our ministry as a church.
There are many practical kinds of service in which to engage; there are moral and spiritual issues to be addressed; but at the heart, at the forefront, and as the foundation of it all must be “Jesus”. As we celebrate Christmas, from which in popular culture Jesus has to such a great extent been eliminated, let us continually emphasise the angel’s message: “Jesus … he shall save his people from their sins.”